That football thing

1191 I admit that my knowledge of football is seriously limited, mostly drawn from the Fast Show sketches of Ron Manager and playing for the school team when I was about seven. However, I am aware that a world football (or soccer if you’re from one of those nations that calls it by that name) tournament is about to be upon us, so I have enlisted the help of my English friend Craig to provide an entirely unbiased* overview of what this thing is all about. With any luck, I’ll be able to get more guest writers for this blog thing and before I know it I’ll be kicking back, drinking cocktails by the pool and eyeing up my bevy of maids as the money rolls in. Or something. Anyway, the rest of this post is from Craig. Cheers dude.
*May be a lie.

Three Lions lose in South Africa
This may sound like the title of a new Disney classic (or a breaking Sky News Report) but I assure you it’s not. Every four years something momentous happens - I’m not talking about the Olympics or Leap Years, I’m talking about the FIFA World Cup, being held this year in South Africa.

You’d have to be blind to miss the fact that it’s coming. Everywhere you go you can see national flags flying, all the pubs have banners up advertising the games to come and the whole country is starting to buzz in anticipation.

As a football fan you always remember the first World Cup you watch. I havethree-lions-71471 hazy memories of England in Mexico in 1986 with the infamous Maradona “hand of God” but for me the first real World Cup was Italia 90. I had the shirt, the Panini Sticker Book with a huge bundle of swaps - I even managed to complete the Esso Coin Collection for England and Scotland (which I recently found out is worth a massive £5 on eBay – great). The evenings were spent in the park trying to recreate Lineker, Platt and Gazza with a football, nowadays it’s less park and more pub and the closest I come to impersonating England's current footballers is stumbling out of the bar in the early hours hammered. Italia ‘90 was the furthest England have been since that day in ’66, again we played West Germany and this time in 1990 we had Gazza’s tears and a heart breaking defeat on penalties, the final one missed by the fantastically mulleted Waddle.

So what chance have England got this year then?

It’s hard to judge as there are three or four other teams that have the potential to be World Champions. Brazil and Spain have to go down as the favourites, Spain being the current European Champions and having quality in every position. Argentina will also be a threat if Maradona can get his act together, pick a stable side and avoid falling out with everyone. Finally there’s always the Germans, they have a very young squad this year of talented players. I think Euro 2012 will belong to them but this year I’m not sure they’ll have the experience to win the whole tournament.

In England, as always, we fill ourselves full of optimism before the tournament starts, the press will usually do anything they can to undermine some players in the team, we’ll get one crucial injury (Ferdinand already!) before finally we accept that we aren’t as good as we think we are as we crash out again on pens. Our “Golden Generation” is getting less gold and more grey and they won’t have a much better chance of winning it. The key to England doing well is Rooney staying fit (and on the pitch), so with a little luck and determination we will hopefully be celebrating the knighting of Sir Rooney in the New Years Honours!

By Craig. Findingtheuniverse football correspondent extraordinaire.

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